Young Announces Plans to Retire After 42 Years on the Hill

Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., speaks to reporters after a hearing on Benghazi.
National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
Oct. 9, 2013, 10:01 a.m.

No Re­pub­lic­an cur­rently in the U.S. House has been on Cap­it­ol Hill longer than Rep. C.W. Bill Young — about 42 years.

On Wed­nes­day, the 82-year-old law­maker and former House Ap­pro­pri­ations chair­man let it be known he is re­tir­ing at the end of the term.

Young has been bat­tling ail­ments for a couple of years, in­clud­ing back prob­lems, and he re­in­jured his back on Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to Harry Glenn, Young’s long-time chief of staff. “Needs (phys­ic­al ther­apy), so he will miss a few weeks” of votes and oth­er con­gres­sion­al activ­ity, said Glenn.

Though once one of the most power­ful men in Wash­ing­ton, Young re­mains in­flu­en­tial as the top Re­pub­lic­an on the de­fense ap­pro­pri­ations sub­com­mit­tee. His de­cision to re­tire was first re­por­ted by the Tampa Bay Times. He told the news­pa­per there are sev­er­al factors in why he won’t run for reelec­tion, in­clud­ing his health and his de­sire to spend more time with his fam­ily.

“I don’t know that I would pick out one thing. It’s a lot of things. My fam­ily, my job, my re­hab­il­it­a­tion from my back,” he told the news­pa­per.

Asked if the con­gres­sion­al grid­lock was a factor, Young re­spon­ded, “I’m a little dis­ap­poin­ted. It seems there’s too much polit­ics. It’s a dif­fer­ent Con­gress.”

As re­cently as in June, Young was still gear­ing up for an­oth­er term, des­pite grow­ing frus­tra­tions tied to de­fense se­quester cuts and his dis­ap­point­ment with the gen­er­al tone of con­gres­sion­al polit­ics.

As the longest-serving Re­pub­lic­an mem­ber of the House — he was first elec­ted in 1970—his is a ca­reer that’s in­cluded be­ing chair­man of the House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee from 1999 to 2005.

He has been chair­man of the De­fense Ap­pro­pri­ations Sub­com­mit­tee since 2011, with sev­er­al pre­vi­ous stints in the same job.

Young’s de­par­ture may now set up a scramble by the GOP to keep what has been con­sidered a re­l­at­ively safe Re­pub­lic­an seat as long as he was in it — Flor­ida’s 13th — but could now be­come highly com­pet­it­ive.

Pres­id­ent Obama in 2012 won that dis­trict 50 per­cent to 49.1 per­cent over his GOP chal­lenger Mitt Rom­ney.

His de­par­ture also will strip the Tampa Bay area of years of polit­ic­al ex­per­i­ence and clout in Con­gress. From Young’s seni­or po­s­i­tions on the House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee he has been able to steer hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars to his dis­trict, the re­gion, and the state.

Aware that spec­u­la­tion has been sim­mer­ing for some time that his ad­vanced age and health could lead him to re­tire, Young has ac­know­ledged in past in­ter­views that he knows there has been talk that his wife, Beverly, or one of his sons, Billy, may run for the Pinel­las County-based con­gres­sion­al seat.

But Young, in the past, has said he doesn’t think Beverly would run.

However, he at times in­dic­ated his son is in­ter­ested. But Young has denied hav­ing made any prom­ises to hold on to his con­gres­sion­al seat to help im­prove the chances of suc­ces­sion.

In an in­ter­view five years ago, Young was already in­tro­spect­ive — if not evas­ive — about his fu­ture and when he would re­tire.

“I think you know when it’s time. How do you know? I don’t know how you know it,” he said. “But so many people have told me, ‘You will know when it’s time.’ “

Young said he’d already thought he had ac­com­plished a lot in Con­gress, in­clud­ing — he poin­ted out — es­tab­lish­ing a fed­er­al bone-mar­row re­gistry that has saved many lives.

But he ad­ded, “There are still some things I want to do.”

Young also speaks of be­ing dia­gnosed more than 13 years ago as hav­ing dia­betes, and of his hav­ing had open-heart sur­gery in 1996.

In 2005, term lim­its forced Young out of his chair­man­ship of the House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee — a coveted and power­ful as­sign­ment be­cause it con­trols the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment’s purse strings. Back then it also gave him tight reins over a com­mit­tee be­cause of his con­trol of ear­marks — a tool cur­rent chair­men no longer have.

Then, Young lost the chair­man­ship of the de­fense ap­pro­pri­ations sub­com­mit­tee in 2007 when Demo­crats took over the House.

But he re­gained it in 2011. He would have re­quired an­oth­er waiver from House Re­pub­lic­an con­fer­ence chair­man term-lim­it rules to main­tain the sub­com­mit­tee chair­man­ship next year.

In 2011, Young con­tac­ted U.S. Cap­it­ol Po­lice to tell them he was very much still alive des­pite an in­cid­ent in which po­lice in his Tampa-St. Peters­burg-area dis­trict re­ceived an an­onym­ous re­port that he had died.

“Still alive and kick­ing,” the law­maker had to even­tu­ally in­sist from Wash­ing­ton by tele­phone, to per­son­ally squelch the ru­mor for a re­port­er at The Tampa Tribune. The news­pa­per had been tipped off by po­lice to pur­sue the po­ten­tial bad news.

On Wed­nes­day, col­leagues ap­plauded his long ca­reer.

“For the past 50 years, Bill Young has been a ter­rif­ic and tire­less pub­lic ser­vant for the people of Flor­ida. Wheth­er as a Flor­ida State Sen­at­or or Mem­ber of Con­gress,” said Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee Chair­man Greg Walden, in a state­ment. “As Chair­man of the House Ap­pro­pri­ations Sub­com­mit­tee on De­fense, Bill has been com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the lives of ser­vice­men and wo­men across our coun­try, and we are forever grate­ful for his com­mit­ment.”

And col­leagues from across the aisle, in­clud­ing those with­in the Flor­ida del­eg­a­tion, also praised Young.

Fel­low Tampa area Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., praised Young and his wife, Beverly, for “a tre­mend­ous leg­acy” in not only ad­voc­at­ing for the re­gion’s Mac­Dill Air Force Base, but “es­pe­cially his pas­sion for our mil­it­ary mem­bers, vet­er­ans and their fam­il­ies.”

“It has been a priv­ilege to serve along­side Con­gress­man Young, who is one of the most hon­or­able mem­bers of Con­gress ever to serve in the body,” said Castor.

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